Cries resonated with the melodies as people sang in the valley where a small village used to be in La Libertad town in Negros Oriental.
A year after a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit the town and triggered a landslide that buried several houses in Barangay Solonggon, the pain still lingers among the families of 15 people who were killed and 34 others missing in the tragedy.
“We have not fully accepted the fact that our loved ones will never be with us again,” Marilyn Cuyogan said.
Cuyogan lost her brother, Rolly Lisundra, and his entire family—wife Norita and children Ronelyn, Renlloiyd and Rondell—in the landslide. They were inside their house when mounds of earth fell from the mountain and entombed houses below.
Their bodies were never recovered.
“It is hard to move on, especially [because] we have never found their bodies. There is still a part of us hoping they are alive somewhere but we know it is impossible,” Cuyogan said.
On February 6, she and some 50 other people held a simple but emotional memoriam for those who died in the tragedy in Solonggon. At dawn, they converged at the chapel near the Tent Residence, where 29 families still stay after their houses were destroyed.
Each prepared food—lechon, grilled fish and squid, and vegetables—to share for breakfast. They talked about that fateful day.
From the chapel, they walked three kilometers to a large cross, which was put up to remember the dead, and prayed. They cried while singing gospel songs. Candles were lit and flowers laid at the foot of the cross.
The families chose not to rebuild their houses there. Some put up tombs and markers bearing the names of their loved ones.
Vicky Ferolino said she could not accept the loss of her father, Harry Callora, who was left in the house when the landslide struck to feed their pigs.
“When we left that morning, we said beautiful things about each other, how we loved our family. I never thought that it would be our last conversation,” Ferolino said.
“It would have been less painful if he had died of an illness, not in that kind of sudden death,” she added.
Franklin Bolo, 68, planted a Crown of Thorns orchid for her daughter, Frechelle, in the area where he believed she was buried. It was her favorite plant. Carine Asutilla